Resurrection


Evangelism is one of the most important missions of the church. In evangelism, we are making an appeal to non-Christians to both believe and do something. What we ask them to believe and do ought to pattern what the first disciples asked non-Christians to believe and do. Does it? To answer that question, I recently examined what the early church preached to unbelievers, chronicling every detail of every message found in Acts (2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12,33;  5:29-32,42; 7:2-53; 8:5,12,35; 10:34-43; 11:20; 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 16:30-31; 17:2-3,6-7,18,22-31; 18:5,28; 19:2-4,8; 20:21,25; 22:1-21; 23:6,11; 24:10-21,24-25; 25:19; 26:1-23; 28:17-20,23,30).[1] What follows are my findings and analysis. (more…)

The resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith, but why does it matter?  Why think of it as just another of many miraculous/supernatural events?  Why not see it as a mere historical oddity?  Why does it matter so much to Christianity?  What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?

Here are just a few reasons it is significant:

(more…)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was the central message of the early church and the basis of Christian hope.  But why should we believe that a man was raised from the dead 2000 years ago when we were not there to witness it, and when our uniform experience says that dead people always stay dead?  While many people think the resurrection of Jesus is something you either choose to believe or choose to reject based on your personal religious tastes, the fact of the matter is that there are good, objective, historical reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

Historians must do two things: establish the historical facts, and then find the best explanation for those facts.  When it comes to the life of Jesus, the primary source material for the historian is the New Testament (NT) gospels and Paul’s writings because they include the testimony of early disciples who witnessed the events in question or knew those who did, and they provide the most detail about Jesus’ life.

(more…)

Only the resurrection of Jesus from the dead can explain why Christians believed Jesus was divine.  It also gives credence to the fact that Jesus claimed to be God.

Many skeptics think that Jesus never made claims to deity – that such claims were merely put on his lips by his followers.  But why would they do so?  The Jews had no concept of a divine messiah.  Indeed, the idea that God could become a human being was considered blasphemy to the Jews.  If the gospels are to be believed, the reason Jesus was condemned to death by the Jews was precisely because he claimed to be God.

(more…)

Michael Licona’s magnum opus on the resurrection, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, is a must read for those who are interested in the historical evidence for the resurrection.  It has some overlap with other great works on the resurrection such as N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of Godbut it is distinct in that it begins with an examination of history and method (philosophy of history) before examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and drawing any conclusions.  Licona explores the nature of historical knowledge (what can be known) and historical methodology.  He even assesses the source material (canonical as well as non-canonical material) to determine each source’s value for the investigation.  Finally, he gets to the heart of the matter by determining the historical facts, and then assessing competing hypotheses to determine the best explanation.  All 600+ pages are worth your attention!

empty_tombThe resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was the central message of the early church and the basis of Christian hope.  But why should we believe that a man was raised from the dead 2000 years ago when we were not there to witness it, and when our uniform experience says that dead people always stay dead?  While many people think the resurrection of Jesus is something you either choose to believe or choose to reject based on your personal religious tastes, the fact of the matter is that there are good, objective, historical reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

(more…)

Story of ChristianityMuch of the Bible is written in narrative form.  It tells a story – a true story, but a story nonetheless.  There is a lot of information in the Bible to digest, and it’s easy to get lost in the details and miss the big picture.  So how does one put it all together?  What is the essence of the Biblical story?  What is the basic story line from Genesis to Revelation?  Various attempts have been to condense the major themes and events in the Bible into a coherent, terse story line.  Here is my attempt to arrange the puzzle pieces into a clear picture, such as it is.  I hope it will tie together some loose ends that may exist in your mind and offer you a bird’s-eye view of the greatest story ever told: (more…)

post-resurrection woundsJohn tells us that in the final state there will be no sickness or disease. Most Christians tend to think of our glorified body as a perfected body. And yet, Jesus’ resurrected body was not perfect. The wounds from His crucifixion remained. What does this tell us about our own resurrected body? Could we retain our wounds too? If you lost a finger in shop class, do you only have nine fingers forever? Or do you think Jesus is just a special case. Perhaps He kept His wounds for evidential purposes, to convince the disciples that the Jesus they were seeing was the same Jesus who had been crucified?

EmpiricismThose who subscribe to empiricism believe that we should not believe the truth of some X based on a competent authority.  We are only justified in believing some X if we have empirically verifiable evidence supporting the truth of X.  It goes without notice that this principle itself is not empirically verifiable, and thus empiricism is self-refuting as a complete theory of knowledge.  But let’s ignore the man behind the curtain for a moment, and explore other deficiencies in an empirical epistemology.

In his book, A Universe from Nothing, physicist and empiricist Lawrence Krauss describes the state of the cosmos in the distant future.  Due to cosmic expansion, in two trillion years all of the evidence for the Big Bang (cosmic microwave background, redshift of distant objects/the Hubble expansion, and the measurement of light elements in the cosmos), and all 400 billion galaxies visible to us now, will no longer be detectable via empirical methods.  Worse yet, all of the evidence for the dark energy that caused the cosmic expansion will be gone as well.  For scientists living in that day, all of the empirical evidence will point to a static universe inhabited by a single galaxy that is no more than a trillion years old (based on the ratio of light elements at the time).

(more…)

Shroud of TurinThe Shroud of Turin – the purported burial cloth of Jesus which contains the faint image of a crucified man – was the subject of intense scientific examination in the mid 1980s.  Based on a carbon-14 dating of the fibers, scientists dated the shroud to A.D. 1260-1390.  For most, this was all the proof they needed to conclude that the shroud was a medieval forgery.

Other evidence, however, suggests that it is genuine.  One theory put forward to explain the medieval date determined by C-14 dating is that the fibers used for the test were either contaminated (from either the lab, or from the fire in 1532 that nearly destroyed the Shroud), or were not part of the original Shroud (the Shroud was patched by weaving new threads into the old threads).

Recently, a group of scientists in Italy conducted tests on the fibers using three different dating methods and concluded that the Shroud dates to 33 BC, ±250 years.  These dating methods utilized infra-red light, Raman spectroscopy (“the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths”), and a mechanical process utilizing electricity.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of these dating methods, but given the fact that three different dating methods all arrived at dates more than a Millennium earlier than the C-14 dates is quite interesting.  It gives evidential backing to those who questioned the accuracy of the C-14 tests.  At the very least, the authenticity of the Shroud can no longer be dismissed out-of-hand based solely on the C-14 tests.  The new data fits perfectly with a first century dating of the Shroud.  It will be interesting to see how other scholars respond to this new data.

Reasonable FaithDr. William Lane Craig is my favorite Christian apologist.  I’ve read countless articles he has authored and several of his books, listened to virtually every debate he has participated in as well as his podcasts and Defenders lectures, and even read his weekly Q&A on reasonablefaith.org.  I could rightly be called a Craigite, and yet I had never read his signature book, Reasonable Faith, which is now in its third edition.

I finally purchased the book and read through it with slobbering delight.  I must confess that having followed Craig for so long, there wasn’t much in the book that I had not encountered before.  But that is more of a personal commentary, and does nothing to detract from the wealth of information contained in this book.

Craig begins the book by answering the question, How can one know Christianity is true?  After surveying what important past and present thinkers have to say on the matter, Craig adopts a Plantingian-based model in which we can know Christianity is true in virtue of the witness of the Spirit in our hearts.  Craig makes an important distinction, however, between how we personally know Christianity to be true, and how we demonstrate to others the truth of Christianity.  While the witness of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for the believer to be persuaded of the truth of Christianity, we demonstrate the truth of Christianity to unbelievers through evidence and rational argumentation.

(more…)

Some people want to reject the testimony of the NT evangelists on the basis that they are biased.  I have written on the problems of this claim before, but here is a brief summary of my argument (with some added insight offered by Greg Koukl in his September 10, 2012 podcast):

  • This is an example of the genetic fallacy – dismissing one’s arguments because of its origin, rather than addressing it on its own merits.
  • Having a bias is irrelevant to the legitimacy of one’s testimony and/or arguments.  One must grapple with the evidence rather than dismiss it because it comes from a biased source.
  • Everyone has a bias, including those who reject Jesus.  The only people without a bias are those who are ignorant of the matter.
  • (more…)

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” [26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 ESV) 

This passage of Scripture is often appealed to by those who see Christian apologetics as irrelevant to evangelism, or even contrary to Scripture.  On its face, it does seem to present an anti-evidence, anti-rational approach to the Christian faith: Jesus appears to berate Thomas for requiring evidence of His resurrection while pronouncing a blessing on those who believe without the need for evidence.  A closer examination of the passage in its context, however, reveals this reading of the text to be mistaken. 

(more…)

I recently taught on the historical reliability of the Gospels and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  One of the areas I focused on was the apparent contradictions and errors in the Gospels, demonstrating how most of these are easily resolvable, and thus not contradictions/errors at all.  But not all Biblical difficulties are so easily resolved.  In fact, there are some for which I do not presently have a good answer.  If you are a careful reader of Scripture, I’d bet there are Biblical difficulties you have encountered for which you lack a good answer as well.  What are we to do with such difficulties given the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy?  What should our posture be toward the Christian faith once having discovered irresolvable difficulties in the text?

Some individuals respond by concluding that Christianity is not true.  Some go so far as to conclude that God does not even exist!  I submit to you that these responses are ill-founded; the result of elevating the doctrine of inerrancy to a status it should not be accorded in one’s theological taxonomy.  While the Bible is an indispensable aid to our faith and Christian growth, an inerrant Bible is not necessary for the truth of Christianity, and thus the doctrine of inerrancy—and Bibliology in general—should be subservient to more central doctrines such as the resurrection of Jesus in our theological taxonomy.  Let me explain.

(more…)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I recently read The Burial of Jesus, a collection of essays published by the Biblical Archaeology Society (the organization that publishes Biblical Archaeology Review).  It provided very valuable archaeological data regarding ancient Jewish tombs, and assessed whether or not the Garden Tomb or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could possibly be the tomb of Jesus. What follows is a summary of the articles, as well as my own personal contribution.

The Gospels tell us that after Jesus’ death, He was hastily buried in a cave tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who was also a member of the Sanhedrin (Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:42-46; Lk 23:50-53; Jn 19:38-42).  Only upper-middle and upper class Jews could afford a rock-hewn tomb.[1]  The poor in the 1st century buried their dead in trench tombs.  Trench tombs were about 5-7’ deep, and had a niche in the bottom for the bodies.[2]  Bodies would be wrapped in a shroud (and sometimes placed in wood coffin) and lowered into the niche.[3]  Had Joseph not buried Jesus, Jesus may have been buried in a trench tomb, or thrown into a field as the Romans were oft to do with crucified victims.

(more…)

There were many messianic movements in the first and second centuries.  All of them ended with the death of their messiah, with one exception: the messianic movement centered around Jesus of Nazareth.  This is a historical anomaly that requires explanation.  Jews expected the coming Messiah to be a political and military victor, among other things.  He was to set Israelfree from Roman rule.  The fact that Jesus was crucified by the Romans rather than triumphing over them in a military victory should have been proof positive to any followers of Jesus that He was not the Messiah.  His group of followers should have disbanded in despair, and set their sights on finding the true messiah.  And yet, unlike all other messianic movements, Jesus’ disciples continued to believe that He was the Messiah, and some even gave their lives for that belief.  Why?  According to their own testimony, it was because they saw Him raised from the dead.  Even many skeptics who deny a real resurrection of Jesus will admit that Jesus’ disciples must have had experiences in which they thought they saw Jesus alive from the dead.  So what did they see and experience, if not the resurrected Christ?

(more…)

I was reading Ben Witherington’s Easter Sunday sermon and he raised a couple of good points about John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection to Mary Magdalene:

“Jesus calls her by name— Miryam!  And it is only when he calls her by name that she realizes it is Jesus!   Now this matches up nicely with what John 10 says— Jesus says he is the good shepherd and he knows his sheep, and they know the sound of his voice, and most importantly,  he calls each one by name.

“Jesus’ response is interesting.  He tells her— ‘don’t cling onto me’. … Jesus is telling her that there is no clinging to the Jesus of the past.  He is no longer just Miryam’s teacher, and there is no going back.  He is now the risen Lord.   There was something strikingly different about the risen Jesus. …. He tells her to tell them he will soon be ascending to God the Father.   Jesus did not rise from the dead to continue earthly existence, so things could go on business as usual.  Jesus rose from the dead to begin the endtimes, then and there, the eschatological age, the age in which all manner of things would change, and when Jesus comes back, we too will experience resurrection from the dead as 1 Cor. 15 promises.”

Matthew reports a guard being stationed outside of Jesus’ tomb (Mt 27:62-66; 28:4,11-15).  While it is often assumed that the guard was a Roman guard, the text does not say this.  While it may have been a Roman guard, it is also possible that it was a Jewish guard seeing that the temple in Jerusalem employed its own guards.  Which was it?

Reasons to think the guard was a Jewish temple guard:

  • The guards return to the chief priests rather than to Pilate or a Roman officer
  • It is unlikely that Roman guards would agree to spread a story for which they could be executed (execution was the punishment for Roman soldiers who fell asleep on watch).
  • While the mention of the governor in Mt 28:14 may indicate this is a Roman guard, if it was a Roman guard then it is difficult to see how the Jewish leadership could have done anything to keep the governor for killing his own soldiers.  What influence would they have in Roman military affairs?

(more…)

Could Jesus have rolled away the stone that covered his tomb?   The entrance of a Jewish tomb was quite small, so the stone needed to cover the opening would only be 4-6’ in diameter, and approximately 1’ thick.  How much would such a stone weigh?  Depending on the type of stone used, it could weigh between 1-2 tons (2000-4000 pounds).[1] This is quite heavy, but two men could move it into place (Mt 27:60; Jn 19:38-42).  The more difficult task was removing the stone.

Generally speaking, the rolling stone was set inside a groove in front of the entrance, and secured from falling over by a stone wall that stood in front of tomb opening (the rolling stone was sandwiched between the tomb entrance and stone wall as the pictures below illustrate).  Often, the groove was not level, but slightly sloped.  To close the tomb, the stone would be rolled down the groove at a decline and come to rest in front of the entrance.  To open the tomb, the stone would have to be rolled up the groove at an incline.

(more…)

In recent days I have taken up a task I had given up on a number of years ago: harmonizing the resurrection accounts in the Gospels.  I hope to blog on this in considerable detail in the future, but wanted to explore a particular anomaly I have encountered that has me befuddled – an anomaly I am hoping you, the community, can help me resolve.

All of the Evangelists – with the exception of Luke[1] – report that Jesus appeared to several of Jesus’ women followers after they saw the angels in the empty tomb, but before they reported the incident to the apostles.  Luke, however, does not mention a resurrection appearance to the women.  According to Luke the women discover the empty tomb, encounter angels who tell them Jesus is risen, and then leave to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard.[2]  If this was all there was to Luke’s account it would not be much of a problem, since each of the Evangelists omit certain details that the others chose to include.  While it would be a curious detail to omit, its omission would be just that: a curiosity.

But the story is complicated by the testimony of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  

(more…)

Next Page »